Dos and Don’ts for Aviation Photography

by Alton K. Marsh


The author photographed this aerial landscape near Las Vegas from a reasonably clean airliner window. © Alton Marsh

Taking air-to-ground photos has a place in nature photography as do drones and remotely operated cameras. However, should you want to expand your horizons, this article covers some of the Dos and Don’ts of photographing aircraft, air-to-air in particular, which can be more complicated.

There’s no shortage of aerial artists spotting graphic designs and colors on the ground. Adobe Photoshop guru Julieanne Kost spent several years asking for the window seat on her many travels. The result was her beautiful and well-received 2006 book Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking. There’s a Professional Aerial Photographer’s Association where business and professional photographers turn their attention to the beauty they are seeing each year and compete for prizes.

Other artists found in the back of an aircraft, usually with the door removed or a window taped open, take photos of actual aircraft. Well-known “critter” photographer Moose Peterson has in recent years branched into this field.

I was an aviation writer for 25 years at the AOPA Pilot, the monthly membership magazine of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Part of my job was to assist the photographer on the ground and again in the air by using my piloting skills to fly 35 feet from another plane carrying the photographer, enabling him/her to capture air-to-air photos. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Let the sun shine in

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

Years ago, I opened a box of Kodacolor II film and removed a thin, folded strip of paper. It contained a set of illustrated instructions for basic photography. One illustration, in particular, still sticks out in my mind. It was a photographer standing with his back to the sun while taking a picture of a model.

Indeed, conventional wisdom tells us to always keep the sun at our backs when taking a picture. This is a pretty good rule to follow for most subjects — especially if you don’t want important details lost in deep shadows. Always following conventional wisdom, however, will usually result in conventional-looking photographs. For a change of pace, why not try shooting directly toward the sun on a bright sunny day.

Including the sun in landscape photos is nothing new. But, aside from a few cameos, the sun rarely makes an appearance in photos of flowers. This could be due to a simple matter of logistics. It’s not that easy to compose the sun in the same shot with a subject that’s low to the ground. It’s much easier if you’re shooting at dawn or dusk when the sun is low on the horizon. Personally, I prefer the morning when the ambient light is rising instead of dropping.

Sun rising behind large-cup daffodils (Narcissus) "Manon Lescaut" Amaryllidaceae New York Botanical Garden Bronx, NY

© F.M. Kearney

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NATIONAL PARKS: How do national monuments differ?

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

President Theodore Roosevelt was the original maverick. When he saw a problem, he found a solution, even if he had to bend the rules a bit to create one.

As far back as 1906, this activist president was faced with a need to protect the immense volcanic plug called Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming. Characteristically forging his own path, he applied the new Antiquities Act in an unorthodox fashion to create America’s very first national monument. Before he was done, Roosevelt signed 18 national monuments into existence.

Congress had intended the Antiquities Act to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.” In essence, it was meant to prohibit pot hunters from stripping ancient Native American sites of their treasures. Still, after over a century of precedent, Roosevelt’s creative application of the act has now become settled law, and its continued use is unlikely to be altered going forward.

Certainly not all such monuments come into being in this dramatic fashion. Many wind their way through a bureaucratic process that can take years.

Once a monument is established, it becomes a unit of the National Park Service. Some monuments are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). No matter how they come into being or who administers them, national monuments do not have national park status, facilities or the number of visitors that frequent national parks.

Of the approximately 130 national monuments presently in existence, 30 have been established in this young century alone. Continue reading

From the President – from March eNews

Clay Bolt

Clay Bolt

In traditional Aboriginal Australian culture, every person, whether young or old, has a special, lifelong connection to an animal. When an Aboriginal mother feels her baby’s first kick, she makes note of that spot. Elders compare this point to traditional songlines — invisible paths that traverse the entire Australian continent — and determine which animal clan the unborn child will be a part of.

Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis once said (paraphrased),

We’ve got wardens today to look after the forests. We’ve got wardens today to try and bring about weed control. But Aboriginal Australians for forty thousand years had their wardens, you know. It’s quite simple. Give every kid at school something to protect of our flora and fauna. OK. You look after the kangaroo, you look after the beetles, you look after the emu. Aboriginal people knew that, so everybody had something to look after as nature provided.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few years, and it has occurred to me that in many ways nature photographers walk a similar path. While many of us do enjoy photographing a little bit of everything, I think that it’s fair to say that most of us tend to gravitate toward a special subject that really tugs at our heart strings. I have friends who make mind-blowing landscape photographs, others who shoot dynamic photographs of coyotes and some who love frogs. I even have a good friend who makes the best fly photos I’ve ever seen. In my case, nothing fills my heart with more joy than photographing an amazing bee. When I do, a sense of joy rises up inside me with such potency that I can’t call it anything other than love. Continue reading

The Making of a Children’s Story

Story and photography by Grace Scalzo

Nanpa plovers with pics.pagesLong Island, New York, beaches are important breeding grounds for piping plovers, a species listed as federally threatened. The Atlantic Coast population consists of only about 800 breeding pairs and 200 of them nest in New York.

I have been photographing the plovers on a Long Island Sound Beach near my home for seven years. I have captured their entire breeding cycle from arrival in mid-March to mating, scrape building, brooding, hatching, early flight practice, feeding and departure in the late summer and early fall.

One evening on the beach, a mother and her child approached me to get a better look at what I was photographing. I pointed out the plovers and their scrape (nest). They were taken aback and responded that they thought that birds nested in trees. It had never occurred to me that some people don’t realize why there are signs to stay outside the roped-off areas or keep their dogs off the beach. They just do not know they could be putting a species in harm’s way. Continue reading


nanpa_bio_photoAfter a successful 28-year career in various technology positions with the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, John Lock launched Relevant Arts Enterprises (RAE) in 1997. He played a critical role in Coca-Cola’s technology planning and direction. Upon starting up RAE, John used his broad experience to bring cost-effective solutions to small businesses and non-profit organizations. John is NANPA’s webmaster. Now entering its twentieth year of operation, RAE ( provides a broad range of services to a diverse client base. John is also a co-founder of the HTML Writers Guild, at one time the largest professional organization of web developers in the world with more than 117,000 members in 150 countries.

Besides technology John enjoys canoeing, hiking, sailing, nature photography, well-made craft beer, visiting Cedar Key, Florida, and he has been known to plunder unsuspecting neighborhoods dressed as a pirate. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: White Sands National Monument

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Glowing gypsum dunes in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

White Sands © Jerry Ginsberg

Although the big state of New Mexico has just one lone national park within its borders (Carlsbad Caverns — see NANPA eNews December, 2016), there is a national monument that offers another opportunity for some terrific landscape images.

At just a few miles from the comfortable town of Alamogordo, New Mexico, the White Sands National Monument is an easy drive of only about three hours from Carlsbad Caverns National Park. If flying in, you might check for flights to both Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas.

White Sands is located in the Tularosa Basin, in the middle of the famous White Sands Missile Range. Because of its location, the dune field is closed to the public on days when a test launch is scheduled. Check in advance to avoid disappointment. Even then, launch schedules can change, and they take priority over tourism (and even us photographers).

Few National Park Service units have names that are so very descriptive as White Sands National Monument. The sand making up these terrific dunes is actually a granulated form of the mineral gypsum, and it glistens sparkling white, especially in the bright New Mexico sunlight.

Even though you’ll be driving the unpaved gypsum tracks within the dunes, they are hard-packed and suitable for any standard passenger car.

Hiking through these semi-firm dunes is only slightly less strenuous than doing so on the more typical loose sand found elsewhere. As you traverse a small part of this enormous 275-square-mile dune field, the rolling shapes seem to come at you in endless waves. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: It’s All in Your Perspective

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney


Hessian Lake – Bear Mountain State Park, New York. © F.M. Kearney

It’s something that usually isn’t given much conscious thought, yet it’s like that one obscure ingredient that can make or break a recipe. Its effects aren’t as obvious as your choice of aperture or shutter speed, but nevertheless, it is just as important. What I’m referring to is perspective.

Contrary to popular belief, your perspective is controlled by your viewpoint — not the focal length of your lens. The only reason the perspective of wide-angle and zoom lenses is so different from normal is because they “view” drastically more or less of the scene. Focal lengths ranging from the mid-teens to the early twenties can provide dramatic landscape views. This is great if you want to include a very close foreground and a background that might be miles away. Sometimes, however, a scene might call for just the opposite kind of perspective. Continue reading

NATURE’S VIEW: Still waters and golden light

Story and photography by Jim Clark

For a few years now I have taken my workshop attendees to explore Taylor Landing, an isolated historical boat landing located along Maryland’s lower eastern shore. With the scenic vista of Johnson Bay and the tranquility of a morning shoot, the landing has become a favorite.

A small bay that opens into the much larger Chincoteague Bay, Johnson Bay borders along the western shore of the coastal barrier island of Assateague. The water is protected on three sides, and, weather permitting, it can become very still and flat, with nary a ripple to be seen.

Autumn Morning @ Johnson Bay 11192016 Taylor Landing MD (c) Jim Clark_13

Pre-sunrise moment on Johnson Bay, Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

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From the NANPA President

cbolt_portrait_jan2014We live in a time where the wisdom of the ages is spoon-fed to us through the oracle of internet memes. If you use Facebook or another social media platform, you’ve undoubtedly seen and shared wise, funny or utterly bizarre statements pasted over a photo — often of a confused looking cat, oddly enough — that tug at the heartstrings or strike the funny bone.

A lot of these wisdom bites are throwaways, but occasionally one comes across the crawl that sticks with me. I recently noticed this one: “If one lights a fire for others, it will brighten one’s own way.”

According to some half-hearted internet research, the original quote seems to have come from a letter written in the late 1200s by a Japanese priest and spiritual leader named Nichiren. I’m not sure that the honorable Nichiren would have cared that his quote was passed around on Facebook, but I’m grateful for the insight, regardless of the messenger. Continue reading